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Cartographic syntax of performative projections: evidence from Cantonese

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Abstract

It is argued in this paper that a sentence should consist of at least three layers, namely proposition, grounding, and response, which are formed by a number of functional categories, such as Event, Temp, Focus, Degree, and CoA. A cartographic analysis of the performative projections can be supported by the data of the sentence-final particles in Cantonese, focusing on the sentence-final particle ho and other members of the h-family, which may allow us to have a better understanding of the syntax of the speech act domain and should have implications for the cross-linguistic study of the performatives and the theory of the Universal Grammar.

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Notes

  1. The Romanization system for Cantonese used in this paper is the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong Cantonese Romanization Scheme known as Jyutping. Tones are represented as follows: “1” high level, “2” high rising, “3” mid level, “4” low falling, “5” low rising, and “6” low level, which are omitted in all the examples and will be marked when necessary. To avoid confusion, the sentence-final particles in Cantonese will be marked with the tone markers in their first appearance in the main text.

  2. Ho in (i) cited from the “Linguistic Corpus of Mid-20th Century Hong Kong Cantonese” is separated from the main clause by a pause, indicated by the comma in (i), and is analyzed as an interjection or a “pro-sentence” (cf. S. H.-N. Cheung 2007). A noticeable difference between the sentence-final particle ho and the interjection ho is that the former can be preceded by o while the latter cannot. Neither (ii) nor (iii) is acceptable. See Sect. 4 of this paper for a discussion of the status of o. The interjection ho should have a different syntactic status and will not be discussed in this paper.

    (i)

    Nei tai-zyu

    laa,

    ho!

     

    you look-stop

    SFP

    INT

     

    ‘You watch out! (I remind you)’

    (ii)

    Nei tai-zyu

    laa (*o),

    ho!

     

    you look-stop

    SFP O

    INT

     

    ‘You watch out! (I remind you)’

    (iii)

    Nei tai-zyu

    laa,

    (*o) ho!

     

    you look-stop

    SFP

    O INT

     

    ‘You watch out! (I remind you)’

     
  3. See also Fang (2003: 180) for a similar description.

  4. Due to its vacuous meaning, o is even treated as a syllable that forms a disyllabic sentence-final particle oho with ho (Tang 2015).

  5. The regular long vowel and the so-called “short vowel” in Cantonese are Romanized as double “aa” and a single “a”, respectively, in the Linguistic Society of Hong Kong Cantonese Romanization Scheme. The former is [a:] while the latter could be transcribed as [ɐ] or [ə] in IPA. Syllables with the rhyme a are considered “weak” or “defective” forms in Cantonese.

  6. See also Law et al. (2018) for a discussion of questions with ho in formal semantics.

  7. Although ho apparently follows aa1 in (i) and aa3 in (ii), sentence-final particles of the emotion type, cited from the “Linguistic Corpus of Mid-20th Century Hong Kong Cantonese” and Matthews and Yip (1994: 347), respectively, it is separated from the main clause by a pause and should be treated as an interjection, rather than the sentence-final particle ho in question. See also footnote 2.

    (i)

    Ni loeng go dou

    co

    aa,

    ho?

     

    this two CL all

    wrong SFP

    INT

     

    ‘These two are all wrong. Right?’

    (ii)

    Gei

    leng aa, ho?

     

    quite

    nice SFP INT

     

    ‘Pretty nice, huh?’

  8. Directionality of the heads is not a topic of this paper. For ease of discussion, it is assumed that the clausal periphery in (23) is head-final although the analysis of the Cantonese sentence-final particles can easily be translated into a head-initial structure along the lines in Kayne (1994).

  9. This syntactic position is also known as “Evaluative” in Li’s (2006) framework.

  10. Such a semantic explanation cannot be extended to the incompatibility of haa and baalaa, given that they both belong to the same type of sentence-final particles. See Sect. 5 for the discussion.

  11. “Emotion” is also known as “Attitude” in Paul (2014) and Pan and Paul (2016).

  12. The analysis in the tree diagram in (23) deviates from Tang (2010, 2015), according to whom Emotion and Degree are in two different syntactic positions and the former is structurally higher than the latter.

  13. Analyzing suprasegmental elements like intonation as sentence-final particles in Cantonese has been proposed and widely accepted in the literature, for example, Law (1990), Tang (1998), Li (2006), Sybesma and Li (2007), Wakefield (2010), Zhang (2014), Feng (2015), among many others. See also Heim et al. (2016) and Wiltschko and Heim (2016) for the discussion of the relation between CoA and the rising intonation in Canadian English.

  14. As commented by Hulst (2016), vowel harmony “may be unfamiliar to speakers of many widely used languages such as English, Chinese, or Spanish.” If the analysis presented in this paper is correct, vowel harmony is also displayed in a specific domain in Cantonese.

  15. (i) without e is cited from Zhang and Ni (1999: 145) and Zhang et al. (2018: 265) and is subject to dialectal variation as well as idiosyncratic variation. Surprisingly, no instances of he (or he preceded by e) are recorded in the “Linguistic Corpus of Mid-20th Century Hong Kong Cantonese”. Chor et al. (2016: 201 fn 13) speculate that he might be more commonly used in Guangzhou Cantonese, but some young native speakers of Guangzhou Cantonese I consulted with nevertheless do not use he.

    (i)

    Ni

    tou hei

    gei

    hou

    tai

    he?

     

    this

    CL movie

    quite

    good

    watch

    SFP

     

    ‘This movie is quite good, isn’t it?’

  16. It is speculated in Tang (2015: 327) that h of the h-family was historically derived from hai ‘be’ that is used to form a tag question like (1) (cf. ho in (1)), from which the h-family could inherit the complex speech act. See also Chor et al. (2016) for a similar speculation. Marcel den Dikken (personal communication) suggests that the rising intonation of the h-family might even be derived (historically) from a clause-like constituent like the tag.

    (i)

    Keoi

    heoi,

    hai-m-hai aa?

     

    he

    go

    be-not-be SFP

     

    ‘He goes, doesn’t he?’

  17. The grammaticality judgments of the right-dislocation examples presented in this section have all been checked with a number of native speakers of Hong Kong Cantonese.

  18. The generalization presented here does not involve any commitment to any particular analyses of right-dislocation and tag questions in Cantonese. See L. Y.-L. Cheung (2009, 2015) and Tang (2018) for discussion of different syntactic approaches. Note that ho that is preceded by a pause behaves differently (cf. footnote 2 of this paper). For the historical relation between the h-family and tags in Cantonese, see footnote 16.

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Acknowledgements

Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the following conferences: Linguistic Society of Hong Kong Annual Research Forum (Hong Kong Baptist University, December 2017), 30th North American Conference on Chinese Linguistics (The Ohio State University, March 2018), 26th Annual Conference of International Association of Chinese Linguistics (University of Wisconsin-Madison, May 2018), Inauguration Ceremony of the Department of Linguistics at BLCU and International Forum on Frontiers in Linguistics (Beijing Language and Culture University, October 2018), 8th International Conference on Formal Linguistics (Zhejiang University, November 2018), Workshop on Sentence-final Particles in Chinese (Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, May 2019), 1st International Workshop on Cantonese Syntax (Palacký University Olomouc, June 2019), 3rd International Workshop on Syntactic Cartography (Beijing Language and Culture University, October 2019), 6th Symposium on Recent Advances in Chinese Syntax and Semantics (Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, November 2019), and Annual Meeting of the Chinese Linguistics Society of Guangdong (Guangzhou University, November 2019), and the invited talks and lectures at Vietnam National University-University of Language and International Studies (December 2017), University of British Columbia (February 2018), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (April 2018), New York University (April 2018), Harvard University (April 2018), University of Sheffield (May 2018), University of Malaya (June 2018), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (June 2018), Nazarbayev University (April 2019), Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (April 2019), and The Education University of Hong Kong (May 2019). I would like to thank the participants of those occasions for their useful comments in the writing of this paper. Needless to say, all errors are my own. This study is partially funded by the Major Project of the National Social Science Fund of China “Studies of Chinese in Generative Grammar and Development of Chinese Grammar in the New Era” (18ZDA291), to which I am very grateful.

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The following abbreviations are used in giving glosses for Cantonese examples: CL: classifier, INT: interjection, PERF: perfective aspect marker, and SFP: sentence-final particle.

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Tang, SW. Cartographic syntax of performative projections: evidence from Cantonese. J East Asian Linguist 29, 1–30 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10831-019-09202-7

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